Pity the people at Hallmark Cards. This holiday season they are heavily invested in snowmen, or the more correct “persons of snow.” You don’t own a TV, if you haven’t seen their commercial where a group of holiday party people are all gathered around a toy “Piano Snowman” ($12.95), singing along with his sound chip.
Hallmark is also giving away a holiday storybook, “The Snowbelly Family of Chillyville Inn” with each purchase of three or more Hallmark cards.
It’s all too bad because snowman, it turns out, is secret code for coke dealers.
Or at least it is this week. Young Jeezy, a “drug-dealer-turned-rapper,” has convinced his fans and their anxious parents that a t-shirt logo he promotes showing a grimacing snowman represents a “snow man”… someone who sells cocaine. The shirts have taken off because of the wonderful synergy between pop music, drugs, and freaking out Mom and Dad.
It’s neither Red State nor Blue State to be alarmed when your 12 year-old sits down to dinner with a huge illegal drug advertisement on his or her chest. Good parents will recognize they are being goaded into a conflict, but great parents will see an opportunity that might have otherwise not presented itself: “Nice shirt. Since you brought up drugs, let’s talk about them.”
Not that I’m ready to give any awards to Young Jeezy for improving channels of communication. He’s claiming copyright of his snowman logo and already has a New Jersey fashion firm cranking out his shirts. But it might be worthwhile to review some of the notorious t-shirts of our youth so that the next generation of entrepreneurs who wish to rock our world with secret code logos can get some perspective.
Let’s see, there was Mr. Zig Zag, the cigarette rolling papers guy. He was huge on shirts for a long time. I think the idea was that you could enjoy marijuana and communicate your enjoyment to others yet your out-of-it parents and the cops would never put two and two together and associate the rolling papers with dope!
Then there was a period where pictures of Quaaludes were in vogue. Those shirts never really took off because nobody wearing one could remember where he bought it. Or where he’d parked his car.
Then there were all those witty beer t-shirts, with things like “Schlitz, Breakfast of Champions” and “Miller High Life.” Dude, the “high” life! Come on! Oh, wait, that’s the actual name of the product.
Which brings us to what will always be the uncomfortable moment in any national debate on drugs or kids on drugs or kids with drug t-shirts: While it’s at least cheesy for anybody to market “Drug n’ Party!” sports wear, we can’t really come back too hard on them when it’s obvious that substance use, especially alcohol, is hardly news to us. Especially to our most recent generations of parents, who can often say, “Been there, done that.”
When there’s a teapot tempest about a drug-related event like the popularity of snowman t-shirts what we’re really upset about is that getting high, like it or not, is a kind of cultural value in America. Sure, it’s not the one we’re most proud of. But we’re not ashamed of mixing sexism and beer to sell beer, status and money to sell liquor, or utilizing code words like “rush” and “high” to sell just about everything else. At certain times there may be some new popular code for substances, but it’s no secret.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Robert Blake must now
(a) pay $30 million in damages.
(b) “act” surprised.
(c) wake up and smell the verdict, toots.
2) A House debate on war withdrawal sparked
(a) warm hugs all around.
(b) insults and jeers.
(c) shouts of “I know you are, but what am I?”
3) Aron’s Records is closing due to
(a) rising costs and downloads.
(b) the difficulty of unwrapping CDs.
(c) no new Burl Ives records.
1) (a) “Man, I didn’t see this coming…”
2) (b) “But Dennis Hastert is fat…”3) (a) “No more Monkees in 8-track…”